Friday, November 12, 2010

Polavaram Dam - Reconcile Controversies

Prof.T.Shivaji Rao, Director, Center for Environmental Studies, Gitam University
TV Interviews in Telugu on Objections  to polavaram Dam project]see following web site]
New Delhi, Nov 24 (PTI) The government today said it would like Orissa, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh to find a mutually agreeable solution to the proposed Pollavaram dam issue which is being heard in the Supreme Court.
"Orissa and Chattisgarh governments have objected to the construction of the Pollavaram project (proposed in Andhra Pradesh) as some areas in both the states are coming under submergence and no public hearing was undertaken there."While the matter is before the apex court, the state governments could mutually settle it through negotiations,"Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in reply to a written question. He said environment clearance to the multipurpose dam was accorded in 2005 after all procedures in accordance with Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 1994. Ramesh said Expert Appraisal Committee in its meeting last year had noted the technical feasibility in respect of construction of bunds/embankments in river Sileru and Saberi in Chattisgarh and Orissa to avoid submergence in these states.

(Published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, and Section 3, Sub-section (ii)
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS   New Delhi 14th September, 2006)
At present there was a controversy on holding public hearing for embankments project estimated at Rs.700 crores as a supplementary project of the Polavaram dam.  The AP Chief Minister is declaring that AP State cannot hold this public hearing for their Polavaram project in Orissa and Chattisgarh.  The Orissa and Chattisgarh state Governments are refusing to hold public hearing on this project because they have filed cases in the supreme Court against the Polavaram dam and hence it may be subjudice.  But the Central Government Ministry of Environment and Forest issued a notice to the AP State Government why they are going ahead with the Polavaram dam project without holding public hearings on the embankments project in Orissa and Chattisgarh.  In the normal conditions the AP State Government should have maintained cordial relations with Orissa and Chattisgarh on this project for securing their approval for the main dam project and also this supplementary embankments project.  Similarly they require the consent of these upper states even for the 960 MW hydro-power project which is part of the Polavaram dam project.  Now the AP State Government has taken a posture of confrontation with the upper states and is demanding the Union Government to use its good offices to convince the upper states to the construction of Polvaram dam project estimated at Rs.16,000 crores. 
The present controversy about the Polavaram dam pertains to the dam safety and disaster management, irrigable area, inundation of lands, displacement of about 2 lakhs of project affected persons, cost benefit analysis and alternate projects for achieving almost the same economic benefits sought by the original  proposed dam.  The proponents of the dam claim that the project provides water for irrigation of about 7.2 lakh acres of land,  generation of 960 MW of hydro-power,  diversion of 80 TMC of water into Krishna river and  24 TMC of water for Rural water supply and industrial water supply for Visakhapatnam..  The opponents of the dam argue that all these above benefits can also be fulfilled more economically, safely and in shorter period  by construction of 3 barrages, one at Polavaram, the second at Bhadrachalam and third on river Sabari at about 30km upstream of Kunavaram.  The opponents of the dam emphasise that the dam in the neighbourhood of a densely populated delta region is a prescription for disaster.  Padmabhushan Dr.K.L.Rao former Member of the Central Water Commission and Union Minister for Irrigation warned in April 1983that the Polavaram dam is defective in its spillway design and will not work and thereby implying that the dam is bound to collapse in due course. 
Why Hydraulic Safety of the Dam is Suspected?:  The AP State engineers observed maximum flood discharge of about 10 lakh cusecs for a catchment area of about 80,000 sq.miles with a maximum rainfall 40 inches in the catchment of Srisailam dam.  They adopted a design flood of 19 lakh cusecs at Srisailam and the spillway design flood was moderated to 13.5 lakh cusecs during 1960’s.  But during October 2009 an extreme flood of about 26.5 lakhs cusecs occurred at Srisailam.  It means that this extreme flood at Srisailam touched 2.5 times the observed historical flood and twice the spillway design flood.  In the case of Godavari basin the observed peak flood was about 35 to 36 lakh cusecs in August 1986 and for the design of Polavaram dam spillway maximum flood of 36 lakh cusecs was used on the basis of a 500-year return flood.  This is a violation of CWC guidelines that require the use of the Probable Maximum Flood or a 1000-year return flood.  This casts a doubt on the hydraulic safety of the project as per the warnings of Dr.K.L.Rao in 1983.  
The hydrology research wing of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, namely the National Institute of Hydrology (NIOH) at Roorkee which provided consultancy services for Polavaram dam break analysis in June 1999 also estimated that for the spillway design flood of 36  lakh cusecs as estimated by the AP State Government the inflow flood works out to about 60 lakh cusecs.  Instead of  the peak flood of 50 lakhs cusecs estimated by the CWC and  the AP State, the actual peak flood  will be about 93 lakh cusecs at Polavaram. Central Water Commission estimated for Sardar Sarovar dam a 1 in 1000 year flood at 87,000 cumecs for a catchment area of 88000 and for the neighbouring catchment of Polavaram dam of about 2.16 lakh intercepted catchment the 1 in 1000 year flood is estimated at about 50 lakh cusecs and naturally this is an underestimate that makes  hydraulic safety of the dam questionable.   If the impacts of cyclones due to climate change and sea surface temperature increases.  Moreover the flood intensity is estimated by scientists to increase by another 20% in Godavari basin. Under these circumstances and for various causes normally cited for failure of embankment dams the Polavaram earth and rockfill dam is bound to collapse resulting in the death of about 50 lakhs of people downstream in East and West Godavari districts, causing collosal economic losses amounting to more than 1 lakh crores of rupees by making the Bhopal disaster fade into insignificance. Such manmade disasters will promote poverty and not prosperity of the people. Moreover there could be sudden releases of floods from dams upstream like Balimela, Machkund and Kolab in Orissa and Sriramsagar in Andhra Pradesh and Jaikwad in Maharashtra which spill waters from the reservoirs during cloud bursts to safeguard the safety of their own irrigation projects.
Why a dam at Polavaram causes a catastrophic collapse like Bhopal Disaster?: According to US Irrigation experts the extreme flood to be expected downstream of the Polavaram dam in Rajahmundry and all other places upto the Bay of Bengal will be based on the combined value of the natural peak flood during cloud bursts but also due to the standing water in Polavaram reservoir getting transformed into dynamic flood flow of about 25 lakh cusecs due to the storage of 194 TMC provided behind the dam.  Hence a dam at Polavaram adds to the serious damaging flood impact and hence a safe barrage project is always preferable than a dam at Polavaram location
As per the dam break analysis  the dam break flood reaches a peak discharge of about 55 lakhs cusecs at the dam site and 50 lakh cusecs about 30km downstream in the vicinity of Kovvur and the city of Rajahmundry will be submerged under about 35m of flood above mean sea level.  Such flood during a rainy season can result in killing 50 lakhs of people in East and West Godavari districts, causing property loss estimated at one lakh crore rupees. This project inundates about 276 villages in Khammam, East and West Godavari districts of AP resulting in the displacement of about 2 lakh of people.  The backwater afflux due to this dam goes upto 175ft. above the mean sea level in Orissa and Chattisgarh states under  a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs and the inundation may touch 195 to 200ft. for a peak flood of 80 to 93 lakh cusecs as estimated on the  basis of international standards.  Thus both the people of Orissa and Chattisgarh on the upstream side and the people of Andhra Pradesh both on the upstream and downstream side of Polavaram dam are forced to spend sleepless nights feeling terrible anxiety about the threat to their lives and that of their children and grand children on the impending collapse of Polavaram dam for one reason or the other like peak floods, earthquakes, terrorist activities, natural or human failures. 
Environmental Clearence was based on insufficient and improper data:  The opponents to the dam argue that the Union Ministry of Environment failed to take into consideration the risk analysis, the dam break analysis and disaster management as the basic core components of the Environmental Impact Assessment report which is highly defective and yet environmental clearance was blindly given on 25-10-2005 for this project on the basis of insufficient information and false data.  The fact that this environmental clearance is erroneous can be proved by the belated action taken by the Central Water Commission in August 2006 when the AP State Government was directed to change the design of the project spillway by increasing the magnitude of the design flood from 36 lakh cusecs to the Probable Maximum Flood of 50 lakh cusecs and that to  without the consent of Orissa and Chattisgarh states.  Even after committing this great blunder in the design of the project which amounts to a change in the scope of the project, a revised Environmental Impact Assessment report is not prepared by the AP State Government for obtaining a fresh Environmental clearance as per law. 
Orissa High Court Judgement of 2006 is a stumbling block:   Moreover in March 2006 the Orissa High Court considered a writ petition against Polavaram dam and delivered a judgement in March 2006 that AP State can construct the Polavaram dam on the condition that it should not result in any submersion of lands, forests and villages in Orissa.  The Union Ministry of Environment accepted this judgement and directed the AP Government to incorporate this condition imposed by the High Court as an additional condition in the Environmental clearance letter given to the project on 25-10-2005.  It means that this environmental clearance letter contains contradictory conditions the first one specifying provision of rehabilitation and resettlement plans for displacement of about 12000 people from Chattisgarh and about 6000 tribal families from Orissa while the subsequent condition based on High Court order of March 2006 also Prohibits displacement of people from Orissa and Chattisgarh and thus the environmental clearance becomes illegal and null and void. Further the latest environmental clearance given in August 2010 for about 3500 ha of forest lands given by the Union Ministry of Environment also specifies that the Polavaram dam should not cause submersion of any lands and displacement of any people from Orissa and Chattisgarh. 
Appellate Authority cancels Environmental clearance of 2005: The National Environmental Appellate Authority cancelled the environmental clearance dt.25-10-2005 because the public hearing on the Environmental Impact Assessment report was not conducted as per law in the Orissa and Chattisgarh areas where thousands of project effected persons live.  However   the AP State High Court has suspended this order of the Appellate authority and it is still pending before the court. Based upon such blind environmental clearances the subsequent clearances also given blindly  by Central Water Commission, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Planning Commission become invalid. 
Proposals previously made by Eminent Experts to construct barrages and not Dams
1]After completion of the Dowlaiswaram anicut in 1850s Sir Arthor Cotton felt that in order to irrigate the uplands on the Western side of the Kolkata-Chennai railway line there was a need to construct another anicut at a higher elevation upstream of the railway line then the Madras Government investigated some schemes and the proposal to build Rampada Sagar project with a Full Reservoir Level of 190ft to 200ft  was investigated and the project was given up before 1950 due to difficulties in foundation and the high costs involved in the construction which was estimated at Rs.130 crores at 1947-48 rates. 
2] When there were a very disastrous floods in Godavari in 1953 floods of about 28 lakh cusecs, the state Government proposed a flood control dam project at Ippur, 90km upstream of Rajahmundry, it was also proposed to construct a diversion barrage at Polavaram so that the storage component will be at Ippur and the irrigation component at Polavaram.
 3] Again when there were floods in Godavari, the Government of India appointed a technical expert committee in November 1965 headed by AC Mitra to suggest measures for flood control.  Mitra committee recommended for replacing the anicut with barrage at Dowlaiswaram and stressed the need for constructing another barrage at Polavaram for irrigating the uplands on the Western side of the coastal railway line.
 4] In the meanwhile the Government of India appointed Godavari water Dispute Tribunal  in April 1969 to settle the disputes between the basin states.  In 1976 the state Government established an investigation circle for Polavaram project at Rajahmundry.  After considering several alternate proposals 2 proposals got crystalised.  The first one is a barrage/diversion gated structure  on permeable foundations and the  second one was a spillway on rocky foundation in the plank saddle.  The barrage with about 12ft. high gates was considered inadequate as the waters were required to be raised by 100ft. to serve the upland areas and hence the project was deferred .
5]  But two expert committees of the Government of India one headed by Dr.A.N.Khosla (1953) and another headed by Sri.Gulhati (1963) recommended for diversion of Godavari waters into Krishna by building barrages at Polavaram to be supplemented by waters from reservoirs to be constructed at Inchampalli and other places on the upstream side of Inchampalli .
But when Government of India encouraged mutually agreeable inter-state agreements on sharing of Godavari waters for presentation before the Bachawat tribunal a meeting was held between the Chief Ministers of AP and Karnataka  on 4-8-1978 an agreement was made between the states to divert 80 TMC of water from Godavari into Krishna basin so that 35 TMC out of 80 TMC can be utilized by Karnataka and Maharashtra subject on the condition of the sanctionof the Polavaram project by the CWC for Full Reservoir Level of Polavaram being kept at +150ft above the mean sea level. 
When the AP State Government submitted final reports before the Bachawat Tribunal between 25-2-1980 and 2-4-1980.  the AP State demanded the Tribunal that the inter-state agreement dt.7-8-178 must be amended to suit the requirements of AP as otherwise the Polavaram project cannot be constructed and AP further stated that they are ready to pay compensation for submersion of lands in Orissa and Chattisgarh even upto 175ft. above the mean sea level under the maximum flood of 36 lakh cusecs.
 AP State further threatened that if the condition of Full Reservoir Level at 150ft. at Polavaram dam site is changed there can be no question of the diversion of Godavari waters into the Krishna river at all and demanded the tribunal to substitute the figure of 150ft into 175ft. at the areas to be inundated in the areas of Orissa and Chattigarh.   The Central Water Commission considered the strong objections raised by Orissa and Chattisgarh against the Polavaram dam with its FRL fixed at 150ft above the mean sea level and managed to bring out to an agreement on Polavaram and chose a suitable time when Orissa was under the President rule and Junior level officer was deputed to sign the final agreement on 2-4-1980  and on 3-4-1980  and the Bachawat Tribunal award was finalized as requested by the Central Water Commission and the Union Ministry of Water Resources.
Thus the Bachawat award has stipulated a condition that the spillway design should be based on flood discharging capacity of 36 lakh cusecs and this crucial condition was changed after 25 years to 50 lakh cusecs of Probable Maximum Flood and because of this unilateral change of condition in August,2006, without the consent of the participating states of Orissa and Chattisgarh the Bachawat ribunal Award based upon the interstate agreement of 1980 has become null and void.
Embankment dams cannot provide safety against floods in Orissa :  Since Orissa High Court imposed another condition  in March,2006 that AP should avoid submersion of lands in Chattisgarh and Orissa by construction of  Polavaram dam,Central water Commission directed A.p.State to construct embankments/dams of 48 feet for 30 km.length in Orissa and for 30 km.length in Chattisgarh  the upper states refused the proposal since the construction of embankments cause  more harm to the people of Chattisgarh and Orissa.people who are expected to be protected by the embankments consider the embankments harmful to their interests as many embankments failed as protective measures in several places in India including in temple towns like Bhadrachalam,Rajahmundry and Alampur during the floods.  Thus an agreement which contains conditions against public policy or public interest will be considered as null and void.  Hence Bachawat Tribunal Award cannot be implemented on legal, ethical and moral grounds to the detriment of public interest and national prosperity.
The claim of the AP State that the project provides irrigation for 7.2 lakh acres is not correct according to independent experts who argue that more than 4.7 lakh acres are already under irrigation and consequently only about 2.5 lakh acres will be available for irrigation by the waters from Polavaram project.  Pushkaram and Tatipudi lift irrigation projects irrigate 2 lakh acres that is proposed to be irrigated by Polavaram canals.  Yeleru project covers 0.67 lakh acres and minor irrigation tanks, tube wells and village tanks irrigate 2.1 lakh acres.  The project proponents argue that they will scrap the lift irrigation schemes when Polavaram project gravity canals will be used for irrigating the lands presently irrigated by the lift schemes and it results in misuse of public funds. Out of the net irrigable of 1,30,000ha under the Polavaram-Vijayawada canal, 1,21,000 ha is commanded by gravity while about 8000ha is by a lift of 23m .  According to National Water Development Agency about 1 lakh ha. is already irrigated while 36000 ha only comes under unirrigated area and it means 73% of the area proposed to be irrigated by Polavaram right canal is already under highly profitable irrigation systems and the proposed use of Polavaram water will only add to the drainage problems and the consequential reduction in the net incomes of the farmers.  There is a suspicion among the people that there will not be sufficient flow in Godavari over a period of 25 years when the upper basin states develop their own irrigation and hydro power generation systems cannot produce 960 MW of power as anticipated.  If a cost benefit analysis of the project is made by considering these ground realities the project becomes highly uneconomical and an economical burden to the farmers and the project cannot become feasible.

Comptroller and Auditor General faulted AP State Government for including the about 2 lakh acres of  land coming under Pushkara Lift Irrigation scheme sanctioned by Planning Commission at a huge cost is again included under the Polavaram command area.  When the State government was questioned about this irregularity the state Government replied that they will disband the pumping units and pipelines and use them elsewhere after polavaram project is completed but the Auditor General refused to accept such lame excuses and did not accept the reply.  Similarly another 2 lakh acres to be covered by Polavaram project is also under irrigation by the lift scheme at Tadipudi on Godavari river thus 4 lakh acres already being cultivated under 2 major lift irrigation schemes is again shown under the catchment of Polavaram project to mislead the central Government agencies to manipualte the figures to show a favourable cost benefit ratio without which the project will become economically very unviable and cannot be sanctioned by the planning commission or other Ministries of the Union Government.

CONCLUSION: If fore warnings from experts cannot forearm the people and their elected representatives in state Assemblees and Parliament, the health, national economy and the right to life of people is bound to be doomed and future generations will not forgive us for our sins of commission and omissions. we have to think and act in time to harness the waters of river Godavari for the benefit of the people of Andhra Pradesh by modifying the dam into safe barrages project. Let us examine the obstacles to the project and overcome them in a democratic way to ensure prosperity of the farmers
In order to avoid the damaging impacts of the Polavaram dam alternative proposals have been made by Sri.T.Hanumantha Rao a former Engineer-in-Chief for Irrigation of AP State Government to construct 3 barrages, one at Bhadrachalam, the second one at a point mid-way between Kunavaram and Konta on river Sabari and the third one near Polavaram village to secure the same economic benefits as anticipated under the original project.  Moreover the alternative scheme will be more safer, more economical and can be completed within a shorter time. 
This alternative design for the Head works of the Polavaram project are mainly intended for quickly completing the project without objections from the upstream states of Orissa and Chattisgarh on account of submersion of villages in their states.  This alternative design is technically feasible and the concept given when fully understood would lead to preparing a Detailed Project Report , after a detailed field survey and investigation.  As the understanding of the concept improved, the cost of alternative proposal got reduced to less than half than that thought of earlier by the Government.  Also the number of villages that would submerge as per the alternative proposal got reduced to 1/3rd, with a better understanding of the concept by the State Government.  Similarly, the innovations made with regard to providing the spillway gates for the entire length of the barrage as scour vents, when grasped fully would lead to understanding that there would be no siltation due to the barrage.  Since the regime of the river is not affected an full cross section of the area of the PMF(Possible Maximum Flood)  is provided as went way, the river continues to flow as if there is no obstruction, whatever may be the flood magnitude.  During the non-peak flood flow day (for example: one or two lakh cusecs flow) barrage gates would be opened partially to allow this flow downstream, while maintaining the water level in the pond, at near FRL  of 100 feet.  This is to facilitate maintaining a hydraulic head (difference of water levels on upstream and downstream) for generation of hydro power.  In addition to saving about 200 tribal villages from submersion, the alternative proposal envisages about irrigating 1 lakh acres of land belonging to the tribals.  This land was originally contemplated for submersion according to the earlier proposal.  Apart from saving these lands from submersion, the same can be provided with irrigation facilities for one Kharif season crop through gravity flow canals from the upper tow proposed barrages.  The existing Polavaram canals, now under construction, where more than Rs.3000 crores expenditure was incurred can be fully made use of, by pumping water from the proposed Polavaram low barrage with a pumping head of about 11 meters (54 MW power required).  All the benefits of the earlier proposal namely irrigating 7.2 lakh acres of land under Polavaram irrigation Godavari and Krishna deltas, diversion of 80 TMC  to Krishna basin, supply of 23 TMC for drinking and industrial purposes.  Hydro power of 1038 MW can be generated.  Water supply to North Coastal Andhra , contemplated in the future, water supply to Khammam district areas by lift irrigation et. Can all be achieved through this alternative design also.  Since the peak river flood passes through the low barrage, without any obstruction (river regime not being disturbed), dam break and risk to the lives of 46 lakh people living immediately downstream of the project, do not arise.  This is another major advantage of the alternative proposal.


AP govt sends strong reply to MoEF on Polavaram project
State principal secretary claims Rs 3,303 crore of expenditure has so far been incurred
PTI | November 11 2010.
Maintaining that the objections raised by union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) over construction of the multi-purpose Polavaram irrigation project on river Godavari were "unfortunate", the Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday gave a strong reply to the ministry's letter dated November 1.
Taking a serious view of the Andhra Pradesh government's inaction in conducting a public hearing into the construction of Polavaram project and obtaining a fresh environmental clearance, the MoEF had shot off a letter to the state seeking an explanation on the issue.
"There is no failure on part of the AP government in taking suitable action for conducting public hearing and hence, there is no reason for contemplating to issue any show-cause notice under Section-5 of the Environment (Protection) Act," state principal secretary (irrigation) Shailendra Kumar Joshi said in a 42-page reply sent to the union secretary, MoEF.
He urged the MoEF to accord its concurrence for construction of protective embankments along the rivers Sabari and Sileru without insisting on public hearing as there was no change in the scope of the project. Besides, flood protective bunds did not require environmental clearance as per the provisions of EIA Notification, 2006, he added.
Joshi blamed the governments of Orissa and Chhattisgarh for playing truant over the issue and, "for reasons best known to them", objecting to the project and not co-operating in conducting public hearings.
"Orissa and Chhattisgarh are not conducting public hearings in their respective states deliberately on flimsy grounds in spite of constant persuasion from government of Andhra Pradesh and MoEF," he added.
The present project proposal was strictly in accordance with the provisions of interstate agreements concluded among co-basin states and the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) Award, 1980.
The Award stipulated that the central water commission (CWC), inter-alia, might determine the places and height of the embankments to be constructed in the states of Madhya Pradesh (now Chhattisgarh) and Orissa to avoid submergence over a height of 150-ft due to backwater effect on account of the construction of Polavaram dam and "the state of Andhra Pradesh shall pay and bear the cost of construction and maintenance of all such necessary protective embankments," Joshi said, quoting the Award.
He said the Rs 16,000 crore Polavaram project benefited not only the regions of Andhra Pradesh but also neighbouring states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
"The project works are in progress and about Rs 3,303 crore of expenditure has so far been incurred," he added..Joshi also said that no work has commenced in respect of protective embankments in Orissa and Chhattisgarh states.
"The project works are in progress only in the areas where environmental clearance had already been given in 2005. Hence, there is no violation of any provisions under EIA Notification or Environment (Protection) Act," he asserted.
Urging the MoEF to accord necessary concurrence for constructing the embankments, he sought the ministry to "arrange for public hearings by engaging other agency at the earliest possible opportunity."

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Born in 1932 at Mudinepalli, near Gudivada, Krishna Dist. Andhra Pradesh, received Bachelors degree in Civil Engg., from Viswesaraiah Engineering College, Banglore (1956) and Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering from Rice university, Houston, Texas, (USA) (1962), Ph.D (Hony). Former Head of the Department of Civil Engineering and principal of College of Engineering, Andhra university.Formerly Hony.Professor in Andhra University,Manonmanian Sundarnar University,JNT University. Fellow of the Institution of Engineers,India Recipient of the University Grants Commissions National Award "Swami Pranavananda Award on Ecology and Environmental Sciences" for the year 1991. Recipient of Sivananda Eminent Citizen Award for 2002 by Sanathana Dharma Charitable Trust, Andhra Pradesh state. Presently Working as Director, centre for Environmental Studies, GITAM University,